Ben Meyer

Special Topics Correspondent

Ben took the newly-created position of Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR in September of 2019.  He has a specific focus through his grant-funded position: reporting on water and water resources in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  Through his on air and online reporting, Ben explores water as a necessity for life and as an identity for the region.

Prior to joining the WXPR team, Ben spent more than seven years serving in several roles at WJFW-TV in Rhinelander.

Originally from Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, Ben is a graduate of UW-Madison. He lives in Rhinelander with his fiancee, Erika.  Outside of work, Ben is an avid Brewers and Badgers fan.  He enjoys doing outdoor projects, running, and competing in triathlons.  Ben is also a WIAA basketball official and calls play-by-play for Rhinelander Hodags sports.

Marathon County

The Marathon County Board revived funding for five nonprofits at a budget meeting Thursday night.

Six others will have their funding cut by a quarter.

The board had originally planned to cut 25 percent of the funding to all 11 nonprofits, but held onto full funding for the North Central Action Committee, The Women's Community, United Way's 2-1-1 program, the Educational Bootcamp, and the Marathon County Historical Society.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Once again on Thursday, a Vilas County committee rejected Trig Solberg’s attempt to collect water from a well in Presque Isle for commercial bottling.

Over a span of nearly five years, Solberg’s group has been blocked time and again by judges, boards, and administrators.  It wants to take water from near rural Carlin Lake, bottle it, and sell it in stores.  Solberg is the founder of Trig’s supermarkets.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Jim and Ruth Brennan thought the days of iron ore mining in northern Wisconsin were over.

So when Gogebic Taconite started drawing up plans about earlier this decade for a massive mine near their home in southern Ashland County, they were surprised, to say the least.

“A three- or four-mile ditch that would actually come within about a mile of our house,” said Jim Brennan.

Jim and Ruth live in the town of Morse, near Mellen and Copper Falls State Park.

Their unique house overlooks Lake Galilee.

Ascension/Tom Weaver

Two Northwoods hospitals have patient safety problems, according to a report from a national hospital watchdog group.

The Leapfrog Group gave Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander and Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff “D” grades in a report this month.  The hospitals were among just four in Wisconsin with “D” grades.

Leapfrog Director of Operations Erica Mobley said the ratings are based on preventable deaths in hospitals.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Despite ongoing concerns about city drinking water, Rhinelander’s Common Council adopted a

  • A Rhinelander alderwoman avoids a censure vote
  • A Wausau couple is charged with strangling a child
  • Lafayette County won’t vote on threatening journalists with prosecution
  • Gov. Evers refuses to release emails through an open records request
  • Brad Pfaff has a new job with state government after being fired as Agriculture Secretary

Fire Hits Irma Home

Nov 11, 2019
pixnio.com

It took firefighters five hours to control a fire in the Irma area Monday morning.

No one was hurt, but the fire burned a home and garage on County Highway J.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office believes a portable heater in the garage started the fire.

Firefighters hauled water from a hydrant at the nearby Lincoln Hills School.

Five fire departments helped on scene, including Russell, Merrill, Pine River, Tomahawk, and Little Rice.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Note: This story has been updated from its original version with information about PFHxS studies in animals and humans.             

This summer, tests showed Rhinelander’s Municipal Well 7 was contaminated with PFAS chemicals.

However, the most recent tests show no detection of the two main chemicals in the PFAS family, PFOA and PFOS.  Even so, that well remains offline, and is not contributing to the city’s drinking water supply.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Records of water levels on many Northwoods lakes often only go back a few decades, if they exist at all.

But one researcher has figured out a way to see the story of lakes going back hundreds of years.

That history, and a clue about the future, is as simple as tree rings themselves.

“We’re proposing using these trees as an Excel spreadsheet, as a way to get at [the history of] these lake levels,” said Dom Ciruzzi, a UW-Madison graduate student working at Trout Lake Station in Boulder Junction.

Ben Meyer/WJFW

A former hospital foundation director from Minocqua will spend 100 days in jail after pleading guilty to stealing from that charity.

Kim Baltus was accused of taking almost $46,000 from the Sacred Heart-St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation over a year and a half.

She pleaded guilty to a lesser felony in Oneida County Court this week.

Baltus told police she planned to give the money back, but her stealing got out of control.

She will be on probation for three years.

Ben Meyer/WJFW

A new company will soon own the dormant Flambeau River Papers mill in Park Falls.

But it’s unclear whether it will reopen or if workers will be rehired.

Niagara Worldwide bought the mill this week for $2.2 million.

“From my understanding, if everything goes right, November 13, Flambeau River Papers will, I assume, cease to exist, and they will become part of Niagara Worldwide,” said Park Falls Mayor Michael Bablick.

The mill fell from 300 employees just two years ago to shutdowns this year as it went into receivership.

The latest testing on Rhinelander’s Municipal Well 7 showed no detection of the two best-known per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals.

In June, the city shut off Well 7 after the combined PFOA and PFOS levels exceeded both federal and state recommendations for the compounds, which have been linked to health problems.

Since then, the city has been drawing drinking water for residents from its other active wells.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Forest County voters approved a referendum Tuesday to raise their own taxes and hire more staff for the jail and dispatch center.

Nearly 60 percent of voters supported the plan.

“I’m very excited.  I really am.  I think this was a long time coming.  I can’t stress how excited I am right now,” said Jail Administrator Josh Bradley Tuesday night.

Bradley started working at the Forest County Jail 14 years ago.

NASDA

For the first time in decades, the Wisconsin Senate has rejected a governor’s nominee to serve in his cabinet.

The Senate voted along party lines Tuesday against the nomination of Brad Pfaff, who would have led the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

In February, Pfaff got unanimous approval from a Senate committee.  But Tuesday, all Republicans voted against his nomination.

It’s now been a year since Gov. Tony Evers was elected.  But the Senate has approved less than half of his cabinet picks.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Forty apple trees stand in an orchard behind the Crandon school complex.

They’re young and didn’t produce much fruit this fall.

But their purpose is for something much more powerful.

They stand in memory of a son beloved by his community.

While standing by that orchard, Erica Neilitz was asked to describe Steve Sekel, for whom the orchard is named.

Neilitz had to take a deep breath and compose herself.

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